Artist statement:

'Selling Dreams' /Espace a' Louer'

in progress 2012/2014

The "Affiches Publicitaires" that float above the streets, on bridges and in the markets in the West African city of Abidjan display to us a pantheon of super-beings, possessors of symbolic objects of desire in a 'globalized' world.
My photographs ask what messages are being relayed through this constantly growing of images presented to the public.
The project, to photograph a selection of bill boards in context over an initial period of two years was initiated on returning to Abidjan in November 2011 . The city (and country) had recently suffered the trauma of violence during the political crisis ,and was slowly picking itself up, economically and politically.
I set out to document familiar places by sourcing this suspended, idealized floating world of publicity above me; a world representing the supposedly desired 'lifestyle' aspirations of the urban inhabitants.
The passing parade of characters ~ generally glossy and successful ~ in this constellation. smile down from their billboards. And we are the 'mere mortals' they are smiling at : a sea of humanity going about our daily business, sometimes trapped in interminable traffic jams below, in the often harsh, urban reality of 2012/13.

So there is an obvious tension between the fiction above and reality at ground level, between an idealized virtual world is suspension and an actual city expanding, developing and pushing itself into the future. Pushing itself towards Hope.

It occurs to me that , could I go back in time and stroll under the marble statues of the greek Gods and Goddesses in classical Athens, those divine creatures may have struck me, in such the same way: Embodiments of a 'Higher Order', as Aspirational Beings.
In the present moment, the passing parade of predominantly beautiful, desirable people and objects presented in the world of publicity promise personal fulfillment, happiness and wholeness within a materially rich context.
A world where no~one suffers deprivation!
This is a glorious constellation of heroes and heroines living their (mainly middle class) dreams, together with their 'dream objects' often placed around them, suggesting beauty, power,wealth and status.
Religious leaders are also present in the 'Land Of Selling Dreams' prothletising from the billboard pulpits, advertising Ministries to a people thirsting for spiritual nourishment and belonging, so that men and women living a harsh day~to~day reality may aspire to join this upper world land of plenty, through new church offering solutions to the vicissitudes of life, or fulfillment in the afterlife.

The production of the actual billboards, some truly oversize, is often sophisticated, laying bare the falsity of stereotypes of African urbanity perhaps still lingering in the West.
The images. often glossy and sexy, are engaged in a colorful visual conversation with the surrounding context of stressed architecture, with new highways or pot~holed, bumpy roads weaving through fast~growing building sites.
It is a world of fast change, where the future unfolds before our eyes.

By documenting this aspect of urban life, I highlight an African cityscape, but also throw up questions about the specificity or universality of regional and global marketing and the objects and human 'types' used for the purpose,whether local or international.
All the world is a stage!
My intention is that you, the viewer, faced with a variety of images which reflect a familiar urban landscape,will acquire a deepening understanding of this alternative universe which mixes, overtly and subliminally, commerce and desire. You may wonder about the objects represented, and the surrounding architectural context .The photos also document a world of constantly changing relationships, as billboards are periodically replaced and the buildings themselves are pulled down,restored or rebuilt.
So that this is the constantly evolving story of a city.

For the inhabitant of Abidjan who may routinely walk by the billboards on the streets without consciously registering their dominance, I hope a Gestalt~like response may occur , wherein what was perceived subliminally steps into the foreground of consciousness ,thus creating awareness of a form of social control ,the World of Advertising, which, by being unmasked , may loosen its grip.

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